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Food, Glorious Food

A Smorgasboard of Park Hill Restaurant News

By Cara DeGette

Editor, GPHN

The last year-plus has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride for Park Hill  gastronomes and foodies. Not to mention the restaurateurs who decide to go for it – sometimes with smashing success, sometimes not.

The Red Octave, opened by Vail’s Phil Long and billing itself as a modern bar and restaurant featuring elevated Italian cuisine, plus live music and a patio, closed after just nine months. Long had completely renovated the restaurant at Colfax and Eudora, which had been the Cork House, and for many years before that, Denver’s beloved Tante Louise.

I know Phil was heartbroken,” said Hilarie Portell, executive director of the Colfax Mayfair Business Improvement District. “He put his heart and soul into it. It’s such a tough business to be in, and a real loss to the area. However, it’s also an opportunity. He invested a lot of money and effort into renovating the space, and it has a wonderful large patio.”

As of press time, the building is up for sale or lease. Weighing in on NextDoor and Facebook, numerous Park Hill social media pundits have expressed hope that everything from Mexican food to Indian fare will move in. And, there is always the clarion call for a true short order diner in Park Hill.

Over in the Oneida Square Shopping Center at 22nd and Oneida, a year ago, Table Top – which had opened just a year before that to great fanfare – suddenly shuttered. A sign on the door at the restaurant, simply read, “Closed until further notice.”

Famed Chef Sean Kelly jumped into action, and opened Desmond in that space last November.  Within months, Kelly & Co. were rewarded with a coveted award for Best New Neighborhood Restaurant in Westword’s  annual Best Of awards. Here’s just one rave of what’s coming out of Desmond’s kitchen, recently posted on the social media site NextDoor:  “Fried baby artichokes, soft-shell crab, strawberry Pavlova. YUM!”

Several other Park Hill and area institutions – both new and established – also got big thumbs way up in the altweekly’s annual Best Of anthology this year.

City Donuts, which just opened a store at Elm and Colfax, won for Best Donuts (www.citydonutsaurora.com).

Neighbors, in the Kearney Business District at 2201 Kearney (neighborswinebar.com), won in the category Best Restaurant By the Glass Wine List.

Station 26 Brewing, in the old firehouse at 7045 E. 38th Ave., got kudos for Best Brewery Tap Room – Beer. (station26brewing.com)

Fiction Beer, the new brewery at Colfax and Pontiac (Fictionbeer.com), won reader’s choice in the category Best New Brewery Tap Room.

Queen of Sheba, at 7225 E. Colfax, won for Best Ethiopian restaurant. (Check out their Facebook page @ Queen of Sheba.)

And Cora Faye’s Café, the iconic Southern-style café at 2861 Colorado Blvd. which has been featured in Guy Fiori’s traveling food show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, won for Best Fried Chicken in Denver (corafayes.com). The bad news for Park Hill? This month Cora Faye’s is moving to Aurora, to 16251 E. Colfax Ave.

One connecting theme for many Park Hill and nearby eateries is that many are independently owned. Along Colfax, the Chop Shop is a chef-driven casual restaurant that has drawn raves. The Abbey Tavern, at Colfax and Fairfax, is owned by Irish expats Glen Eastwood and Andrew Cudden.

Nuggs Ice Cream, next door to the Abbey, is owned by Chris and Nick O’Sullivan – the brothers of Brothers BBQ who also own the Garlic Knot in Mayfair, at 14th and Krameria.

Nanna’s Gourmet Market and Tea Emporium, is a tearoom at 14th and Krameria founded by Karen Renz and her daughter Tobie. A recent addition to that area is the Art Gym Café, at 14th and Leyden, inside a 17,000-square foot facility for artists.

Further west on Colfax, Los Parceros offers Colombian fare (you can’t miss the restaurant, with its bright red, yellow and blue party bus parked out front).

South of Colfax, in the strip mall at 9th and Jersey, is Copper Door Coffee Roasters. Owned by Park Hill resident Hannah Ulbrich, the eco-minded coffee shop is also the only 100 percent woman-owned roasting café in Denver.

The Blunozer, just south of Colfax on Ivy, also opened in 2014 and is operated by sisters Dorothy Timmons Hotchkiss and her sister Della, who have roots in Park Hill.

Govinda’s Garden, at 1400 Cherry, holds the claim as the oldest vegetarian restaurant in Denver. And after 12 years in business, Mezcal, at Colfax and Cook, did a complete kitchen renovation last year. A few blocks further west, independently owned Annie’s Café has been in operation since 1981 – after moving to Colfax from its original spot at 8th and Colorado Boulevard about eight years ago.

Back in Park Hill, several restaurateurs, and their creations, have also received recent praise.

Tables, on Kearney between 22nd and 23rd, got a shout out from Denver Post restaurant reviewer William Porter for feeding him one of the 10 best meals he ate in 2015. The dish was a roast duck with persimmon bread pudding.

Denver’s monthly magazine 5280, among others, continue to sing the praises of Bistro Barbés, the 32-seat restaurant at 5021 E. 28th Ave. Chef-owner Jon Robbins grew up in Park Hill, and returned after a several years abroad, to open the space in spring, 2014, offering a French menu with a North African influence.

Many Park Hill restaurateurs are known for their good cheer and generosity. Tony Uva, owner of Allegra’s Pizza (allegraspizza.com), gives neighbors with new babies a free pizza – pies that generate rave reviews. “When parents bring home a new baby, there is a tremendous amount of adjustment that needs to happen within the family and often it is a stressful time,” Uva explained.

This year Oblio’s Pizza, a neighborhood institution at 22nd and Kearney, celebrated 20 years in business (see coverage of that milestone in the May issue).

Park Hill is also becoming destination for independent wholesalers. In December, famous pie guy John Hinman bought the 11,000 square foot bakery that was home to Red Mountain Bakery, at 4850 E. 39th Ave. Hinman’s Bakery is now in full-on bakery mode, offering pies and other baked treats to the masses.

This spring, after more than 90 years in North Denver, Polidori Sausage moved to 3800 Dahlia (polidorisausage.com). In June the company, which provides sausage to King Soopers, Safeway, Albertsons, and some City Markets, was feted for being a certified green business in its new space.

“One of the most important items with our facility, was to make everything around us as ‘green’ as possible,” said the company’s vice president, Melodie Polidori Harris.

Editor’s Note: Do you know of a restaurant that has opened, closed, is doing something interesting or is making a fabulous dish we should know about? Send news tips to editor@greaterparkhillnews.org for inclusion in future issues of the newspaper.


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